The Q&A Archives: Watering Rootball

Question: When I water my lemon tree, the water seems to run down the sides of the container rather than water the whole root ball. I think the lower 1/2 to 1/4 of the root ball is very dry and not getting any water. What can I do to make sure that the lower part of the root ball receives water? Thanks.

Answer: What you describe is a common occurance with containerized plants. There are two ways to overcome this - depending upon the size of the container. If it's small enough to lift, place it in a larger container filled with water and let it soak for about 30 minutes. You'll know the soil is fully saturated when air bubbles stop rising to the surface. Then remove and allow the excess water to drain. If you do this every 3-4 weeks, you'll be assured of thorough watering. If the container is too large to lift, try watering by the drip method. Applying water very slowly will allow it to soak into the soil rather than pour out the drainage holes. One way to do this is to fill plastic liter bottles full of water and invert them so the neck is buried about one-inch into the soil. The bottles will empty slowly, allowing the water to percolate down to wet the entire root mass.

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